Michigan voters will elect two justices to the state Supreme Court in November. Kerry Lee Morgan is one of the seven candidates.
Candidate: Kerry Lee Morgan
Current Position: Attorney in private practice in Southeast Michigan with a focus on municipal law, civil rights, and employment law.
Nominated by: Libertarian Party*
*All judicial candidates in Michigan are listed as nonpartisan on the ballot.
Kerry Lee Morgan's legal experience includes his time as an attorney advisor with the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. Today, he's in private practice.
He often works with municipalities, but told Michigan Radio's Morning Edition that he has also spent time recently on briefs about Governor Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've done some amicus briefs, which we've recently filed with the Michigan Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals," Morgan said.
Morgan notes that the filings reflect his beliefs in "the importance of the Constitution and making decisions on the basis of the Constitution rather than simply assume the legislature's laws or the governor's orders are, in fact, all constitutional."
Considering governmental authority
Some of Morgan's work in muncipal law involves issues of governmental immunity. That concept has gotten more attention in recent months during Black Lives Matter protests and other demonstrations over how police treat people of color in the United States.
"The [state] legislature has granted a certain measure of governmental immunity to governmental actors," he said.
"On the one hand, it allows that [police] officer to pursue his or her law enforcement functions without the fear that everything they do will be challenged judicially. But on the other hand, we've seen it's almost become carte blanche for law enforcement. And the legislature certainly needs to take a second look at whether the judiciary or whether the courts or whether the legislature themselves have granted too much immunity. And that's something I think we're very concerned about."
Civil rights and education
Some of Morgan's current clients include charter schools. He has also worked with parents to advise them of their rights related to homeschooling.
In 1997, Morgan published Real Choice, Real Freedom in American Education. Morgan said the book "talks about the rights of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their own children and to do so free from state and governmental interference and regulation and control."
He believes the COVID-19 pandemic will only increase interest in homeschooling.
"In Michigan, we have a state law, MCL 380.10, that affirms that a parent has a fundamental natural right to educate their child. So, I think parents are beginning to understand that there are a lot of different options rather than the local brick and mortar school down the street," Morgan said.
Diversity and the court
Morgan is white and only one of the candidates is not. All of the current justices are white. Morgan said voters have to make choices about what's important to them.
"Racial diversity has been held up as a very important proposition because of [itself] rather than what it brings to the table. And I think really in the judicial branch, what a candidate brings to the table is going to be a function of their commitment to the rule of law without regard to color -- or the content of their character without regard to the color of their skin -- and whether they believe that the judge's role is to articulate the law as given and not as they want it to be."
Lauren Talley contributed to this story.
Editor's note: Quotes in this story have been edited for length and clarity. You can hear the full interview at the top of this page.